An EF3 tornado roared through Suffolk, Virginia (in the southeast part of the state) with a path of destruction over 20 miles, during the late afternoon rush hour of April 28, 2008. There were 200 injuries reported and no fatalities. (Most images in this article courtesy of the National Weather Service in Wakefield, VA.
The twister plowed through the central part of the city, damaged Sentara Obici Hospital and Elephant’s Fork Elementary School, flattened a new strip mall, tossed vehicles in its path, and ripped homes to shreds, whereby debris from shredded homes deposited into a neighborhood lake.
The tornado crossed a busy highway before flattening more buildings and ripping apart an antique store in the northeast part of the city before eventually dissipating in the Elizabeth River near Norfolk, Virginia.
The local NWS Wakefield, VA office and the SPC determined that severe convection along an advancing cold frontal boundary was responsible for several tornadoes and reports of damaging winds across southeastern Virginia.
I was about 5 miles away from the tornado’s destruction in the central part of the city. I had been called in to substitute teach at Elephant’s Fork Elementary (which sustained damaged and overturned mobile classroom units), but was feeling sick that morning—more than a coincidence? I know that the students at the city schools were on lock-down, and it took people like my dad 3 hours to get home for about a 10-mile drive. I remember the entire city was under curfew, and of course there was a media frenzy, and only residents could travel through the storm-ravaged areas, in an effort to prevent looting, which even kept away curious amateur photographers and tornado enthusiasts.
Beth Ann Crocker Bio: I have been a weather enthusiast since I was 8 years old, when I plotted Hurricane Bob on a hurricane tracking chart in 1991. I work at Norfolk Naval Shipyard in the procurement field. I am currently working on a third bachelor’s degree in Geosciences–Operational Meteorology from Mississippi State University. I have been in awe of the indiscriminate fury of tornadoes since I was little, and am now certain that I saw my first and only funnel in person in November 1988 when I believe an F0 (old scale back at that time) leveled a barn in my backyard and hurled a 4X4 piece of wood through the air.
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